Kylesa / Rosetta / Fight Amp @ The Annex Wreckroom, January 22nd 2011

Live review by Natalie Zed; concert photography by Adam Wills

This was the first show I attended in 2011, and what a fantastic start to a new year of wrecking my liver and hearing.

I’m going to get my primary criticism out of the way immediately: the Wreckroom was the wrong venue for this show, especially considering Kylesa‘s space requirements. The Wreckroom stage is small, shallow and oddly shaped, which is difficult for the average band, but an absolute nightmare when you’re trying to fit in two drummers and additional percussion. All the bands performed admirably, navigating the difficult space without batting an eyelid, but it was clearly cramped; it sucks when a venue is an obstacle that needs to be worked around. It was also unfortunate in terms of scheduling. Because the Wreckroom primarily functions as a dance club, weekend shows have a sharp 10:30 p.m. curfew. This meant that Fight Amp (who were excellent) had to start right at 7:15 p.m. to play to a moderate crowd when they deserved a packed house.

Now, onto the praise. If you enjoy snotty, sarcastic reviews where the critic takes endless pot-shots at the band and attempts to impress readers with the cleverness of their insults, this is not the review for you. I adored this show. All of the bands performed tight, passionate sets. This tour is also exceptionally well curated; the bands’ aesthetics complement each other exceedingly well. It was an absolute pleasure to be in the audience.

Fight Amp started off the night with a batch of sludgy, doom-y noise that kicked me right in the ovaries. Their instrumentation is scalpel-precise, and they play with tremendous energy. The atmosphere they create is much less razor blade-sharp and much more chainsaw carnage. They have a gritty, Southern dirtiness to their sound that makes me want to do terrible things to myself. While some sludge is molasses-smooth, they have a great grittiness in their sound and texture to their guitars. I drank too much bourbon far too fast while watching them play; it seemed perfectly appropriate at the time.

Rosetta took the stage next and ratcheted the show up a notch. They refer to their sound as “metal for astronauts,” which is apt. They’re strange and stratospheric, more stargaze than shoegaze. But connecting them to astronomy does imply a certain distance or untouchable coldness. In contrast, their live performance was characterized by heat and passion — the centre of a star, perhaps. Vocalist Michael Armine is a heaving, screaming juggernaut, throwing himself around the stage, reaching out to challenge and caress the audience. Their sound is characterized not by a drone but by a pulse, a throbbing quality as vicious as it is plaintive. This music moved me.

By the time Kylesa took the stage, the Wreckroom was finally packed. They dragged some of the Savannah, GA heat up to Canada with them; their set with thick and heavy, dripping sweat and buzzing reverb. The effect dual drummers Tyler Newberry and Carl McGinley have on Kylesa’s sound cannot be underestimated; they add a depth to their live performance as luscious as it is thunderous. At one point, guitarist/vocalist Philip Cope and bassist/keyboardist Corey Barhorst also contributed to the percussion; the effect was somewhere between meditation and violence. Kylesa have many weapons: a percussion section with a kick like a neutron bomb; thick and lovely guitar tones; a pair of excellent vocalists in Philip Cope and Laura Pleasants; licorice-dark bass work; keyboards; and even a damn theremin. Whatever trick they choose to pull out of their sleeves, they do so with sonic grace and a keen ear for balance. All of the varied elements of their sound are carefully deployed and always feel absolutely necessary.

I bought a shirt from each of the bands that played, and I will wear each of them proudly. All three acts deserve your adoration and support.

Adam has been a photographer for Hellbound since day 1 and also has a hand in the technical aspects of running the site.